Shaun Johnson close to re-signing with Warriors as Kieran Foran speculation rages on
Shaun Johnson says Kieran Foran has always made it clear that he wants to be closer to his children in Sydney but the Warriors halfback is unlikely to follow him across the Tasman.
Speculation around Foran's playing future reached fever pitch on Friday following reports that the in-demand Kiwis five-eighth had agreed to join the Bulldogs from next year. Although, while acknowledging the club could lose Foran, Warriors boss Jim Doyle denied a deal had been finalised.
Close friends off the field, Johnson is as keen as anyone to see the former Manly and Parramatta star remain at Mt Smart.
However, he says the entire squad is understanding of his situation and insists Foran has handled it in the best way possible.
"We've known right along what Foz's intentions are. He's made that perfectly clear and he's been honest with everyone," Johnson said ahead of the traditional Anzac Day clash against the Storm.
"We have distractions every week. This has been around for a while now but 'Foz' (Foran) is in a really good place. He's loving being around the boys, loving being at the club and loving playing footy. So as long as he's doing that and he's got a smile on his face we don't hear what's going on in the background."
Johnson is also off-contract at the end of the season and earlier this month the 26-year-old admitted he would be more inclined to stay if Foran re-signed.
Yet as his contract negotiations have progressed, it appears that is no longer a factor with Johnson close to signing a new deal.
While heading to Australia is an option, he has always been driven to achieve success with the Warriors and that has not changed.
"You don't want to just go and walk into a system where it's all set up for you and you can just be another name on the wall at a club that's already won a comp," he added.
"We have our challenges here like every other team does but the thrill knowing what this club can do for rugby league in New Zealand is still something that I really want to be a part of and that's what I've said all along."
"I've been in talks with the club for a while now and we're getting close. It's hopefully going to be all sorted soon."
The Warriors went to great lengths to get Foran's life back on track as it spiralled out of control due to several personal issues.
But Johnson insists it has not been all one-way traffic.
And even if it is only for one season, the benefits of having one of the game's best players at the club will prove invaluable in the long run, particularly for young halves such as Ata Hingano, Tuimoala Lolohea and Mason Lino.
"We speak a lot about what we've done for 'Foz' and how we've helped turn him around. He speaks a lot about that but he probably doesn't give himself enough raps about what he's doing for us at the moment.
"The way he's brought the aspect of confidence and what winning looks like to this club is something that's going to live on once he goes."
Meanwhile, another of the club's off-contract stars, prop Ben Matulino, still has to pass a few more tests before he his cleared to play the Storm.
Matulino is in line to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury having been included in the 21-man squad.
"He's getting there," Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said. "He's got to tick a couple of boxes yet but he's getting there."